GPM First


Which planet? The international veteran’s opinion

Guest Editor Adrian Taggart asks: ‘Which planet do you come from?’ Below, international veteran Richard Thomas responds.

Hard skills versus soft skills?

I have been phenomenally lucky in my career. I have worked with many of the finest project practitioners, in some of the most exotic locations and on some of the most amazing projects imaginable and I can honestly say project managers (PMs) definitely need a mix of both. But there is no doubt in my mind that the most successful PMs I have come across are more than just technically competent. Where they excel is their ability to take on board and successfully deal with the different cultural perspectives of a project – the ‘thought patterns, instincts, attitudes, values, accepted norms, customs and language’ that Adrian discusses.

If I reflect on my career and the most capable professionals I have worked with, the one key characteristic that they all share and that sets them apart is their ability to motivate people into sharing a belief that, regardless of their position or place in a team, what they do matters and is important. In the end it is that respect for others that shines through and generates respect in return.

So, if I were to offer any advice to those starting out in the profession I would say: don’t neglect the hard skills but please keep in mind the ‘soft’ aspects as you do your daily PM job, because, at the end of the day, it is proficiency in those that take a good PM and make them a great one!


Richard Thomas is a Fellow of the APM and Head of Construction for ADNEC

Richard first went to the Middle East in 1989. His roles have include Project Director on the Kingdom Centre Tower in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and Project Director for Cleveland Bridge on the New Wembley Stadium. Richard also headed the Atlantis Construction Management Team (ACMT) which constructed the Atlantis Hotel in Dubai.

He is currently based in Abu Dhabi, where ADNEC constructed and owns the Capital Gate tower, the farthest leaning tower in the world. See more at

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